There is no business owner alive who has not, at some point, hit up Google to type in what they do and where they are, then anxiously scoured the search results pages (or SERPs as we affectionately refer to them) to see where they fall.
A business’ ability to rank well for their local area, area of expertise, or both cannot be undervalued. SEO is one of the most powerful forms of marketing out there, not least because while other areas you pour your resources into generally stop returning rewards the second you stop, what you invest in SEO never dies. It becomes less potent if you stop, and certainly doesn’t continue to improve, but it doesn’t go away. Not really.
That’s a rare gift in the marketing world, and reason enough to be investing heavily on the effective optimisation of your website for search. Add to that the myriad of other benefits you can reap from search engine marketing, and it’s really a no-brainer.
But SEO is a complicated beast to master, and the odds are you have no idea where to start. Not when it comes to optimising your site properly and getting it ranking on page one for key search terms. Not when comes to researching and running effective PPC campaigns that target your audience through SEO.
It’s also likely that you don’t have anyone on staff who knows how to do it either. Unless you have a dedicated marketing team and specifically hired someone with SEO expertise, there’s no reason anyone in your business would have this particular skill set.
And yet, you need your business to rank. You need your website fully optimised. You need all that beautiful organic traffic flooding to you. And you need it to be comprised of qualified leads who are genuinely interested in who you are and what you have to offer.
People who are likely to buy from you, to become customers, clients, repeat business, and vocal advocates for your brand who send more business your way.
Sounds great, right?
But an effective SEO strategy has a lot of components and is more complex than it might appear. If you’re looking for a great SEO team to create all of that wonderful stuff for your business, you’ve likely realised by now that it’s difficult to judge who will do a good job of a task when the mechanics and requirements of it are unfamiliar. To help you out here’s exactly what to look for in a good SEO marketing agency…
A Good SEO Marketing Agency Blogs Regularly…
This one may seem like a no-brainer to some, but it’s worth mentioning, particularly if you’re unaware of the intrinsic necessity of regular blogging to effective SEO.
Any good SEO strategy includes regular blogging. Note, I said regular, not frequent. In an ideal world, we’d all blog at least once a week for maximum impact, but man is that time-consuming. Sometimes you have to settle for once a fortnight, or even once a month. Provided what you’re putting out is high-quality and consistently posted with regularity, the frequency isn’t quite so important.
Before you even consider hiring an SEO agency, stalk their blog. Scroll back through their posts. If there isn’t at least one post a month, every month, for as far back as the site has been live, consider it a flashing neon warning screaming, “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!”.
If The Know Their Search Engine Marketing, They Also Vlog…
Because video is the future of all things marketing and SEO is vital to any long-term marketing strategy, there’s simply no avoiding the need for video in your content schedule anymore.
Your potential agency’s site should have video on it. If they really know what they’re about, they’ll be recording all those blog posts as vlogs and posting both formats (potentially also with an audio/podcast version thrown in for good measure).
You may not want to use video in your own SEO strategy. Perhaps it’s not something you’re interested in, something you can’t do right now, or simply don’t have the budget for. Whatever your reasons for reticence where video is concerned, set it aside.
Video is the most powerful form of content going at the moment. It’s been steadily on the rise for years and is going growing more crucial with each passing year. This is true of social media as well as SEO, and if you’re looking at an agency who aren’t taking full advantage of video in all its forms through lives, explainer videos, webinars, vlogs, and behind the scenes sneak peeks, you need to question whether they really know what they’re doing.
Harsh, but true.
This isn’t about what the agency will do for you, it’s about whether or not they’re capable of running an effective and up-to-date SEO campaign for themselves.
Because if they can’t do it for themselves, when they’re the experts and have a whole team at their disposal, how exactly can they be expected to do it for you?
You’ll Also Find Lots Of Content That Explains How SEO Works…
In amongst all those lovely blogs and vlogs and podcasts and infographics will be a fair chunk of stuff that talks about SEO. It may explain the basis of what SEO is and how to do it yourself, go into the many benefits of SEO for your business, or run down the various elements that need to go into a website to properly optimise it for search. You might find tips for boosting your rankings, and blueprints for creating your own optimised content, or (more likely) you’ll find content that helps you understand just how powerful SEO can be for your business, the value it has, and help you make an informed decision about the type of SEO strategy you should be employing to achieve your goals while sticking to your budget.
In short, SEO experts like to talk about SEO.
We can’t help it, it’s how we optimise our sites for people searching for SEO experts.
It’s also how we convince those people we’re the right SEO experts for them.
And it’s how we demonstrate to you that we’re fully capable of doing exactly the same for your website, albeit by creating content around whatever your particular brand of genius happens to be (bathroom tiles, electric vehicle charge points, legal services, meditation apps, whatever – if you need to optimise for it we’ll write about it!).
Their Own Website Will Follow All Current Best Practices…
Ask yourself, is their website user-friendly? Is it easily navigated? Does it contain high-quality copy that answers the questions that brought you to the page? Is it easy on the eye? Uncluttered by invasive popups demanding you subscribe to this or download that?
In short, is the agency’s own website well optimised according to all the latest best practices demanded by the search engine gods?
If it’s not, ask yourself, why not?
They either don’t know enough to stay current, or they don’t care about their own rankings.
A Great SEO Agency Can Get Themselves On Page #1…
Speaking of which, if an SEO agency can’t land themselves on page 1 of Google they’re in serious trouble. And I’m not talking about sitting pretty in the top spot for their business name! No, I mean are they on page one if you google what they do and where they are?
If you didn’t already in order to find this post, off you go to Google and type in ‘digital marketing agency Northwich’ and see where we are.
Hint – you won’t have to look past page 1!
They’ll Be Upfront About How Long SEO Takes To Kick In…
When you start talking to an agency about their process and services, there’s one thing you should really be looking out for and that’s how long they say it will take to see results.
SEO is a phenomenally powerful marketing tool, but it is not a quick fix.
It takes 6-12 months of consistent work for an SEO strategy to start to pay off.
Anyone who tells you differently either doesn’t understand the nature of the beast or is lying to you.
That’s not to say you won’t start getting traction sooner, you will, but the level of results you see is almost certainly going to feel disappointing for the first six months.
Maybe even the first year.
If you know that going in, and understand it’s how the game works and you’ll be rewarded if you persevere, it’s fine.
If you’re not made aware of this, you’re going to get very frustrated, very quickly, feel like you’re wasting your money, and give up before the agency’s efforts have actually had a realistic chance to kick in.
They may have been doing a cracking job, but you’ll never know because you won’t let it run its course long enough to find out – and that’s their own fault for failing to properly manage your expectations and ensure you weren’t banking on instant (or at least fast) results before they began.
And They Won’t Come Cheap…
In addition to the time factor where your ROI is concerned, there is also the money factor. You’re going to have to invest in SEO long-term, which means you can’t just chuck a few hundred quid at it as a one-off expense, get some quick leads and call it a day.
There are no quick leads where SEO is concerned.
Honestly there are no quick leads where marketing is concerned unless you’re doing PPC ads or personally getting out there, networking and hustling to bring in business fast.
But other forms of marketing that take time to build momentum – social media, PR, etc. – at least come with tangible gains along the way. You see your social following increase month-on-month, you see your business getting featured places, but SEO…while there are ways of boosting your ranking for specific keywords very quickly, the real key to SEO isn’t rankings per se, but traffic.
That takes time.
The longer it takes, the more months you have to invest with your SEO agency.
So it’s not going to be cheap, partly because it’s a 12+ month commitment to see real results, and partly because a decent SEO package will be expensive.
Someone telling you they can get you on page #1 for a couple of hundred quid is either lying to you, or will get you ranking for a term so obscure it’s never going to do you any good.
Remember, it’s not ranking that gets you business, it’s traffic.
And high-quality traffic at that.
It’s no good ranking for terms nobody is searching for, and it’s no good ranking for terms that aren’t being searched for by people at the specific point in the buying cycle that means they are ready to buy exactly what you’re selling, right then and there.
You’ll want to rank for terms at all points in the buying cycle, but if you’re not attracting traffic that already knows they need precisely what you’re offering, it’s going to take you far, far longer to see any return on that investment.
It’s All About The Content…
How do you attract high-quality traffic?
Lots and lots of content.
We’ve talked about the blogs, we’ve talked about the vlogs, now let’s talk about the rest of it – the major updates to existing pages to keep them fresh, the regular addition of entirely new pages, the careful and regular incorporation of local and/or industry-specific elements, the writing and placement of guest blogs and articles in media outlets to build your backlinks…
Content, content, content.
All of it needs writing to be perfectly optimised for search.
All of it needs creating in multiple formats.
All of it needs uploading to your site and formatting.
Now let’s add to that massive amount of time it takes to do seemingly trivial things like ensure you have an effective cross-linking strategy in place, your content schedule is well balanced and includes things like topic clusters and pillar posts, you’re constantly building your citations, your images are properly optimised, and you’re regularly auditing the site to stay on top of any niggling issues that might sabotage your efforts.
SEO is incredibly time-consuming when done properly.
And SEO marketing agency offering you a cheap package will deliver one of two things:
- A black-hat strategy that hinges on nasty tactics that are out-dated, ineffective, and borderline unethical.
- Crap content.
You want none of the former because it won’t do you any good. In the short term, you might rank, but in the long term that traffic is never going to materialise and you may actually damage the authority of your site by allowing such methods to be employed.
And you want none of the latter because, firstly, nobody wants to read crap content and, secondly, the search engines have become so sophisticated in recent years that they no longer want to show people crap content. And you will damage your site’s authority by allowing sub-standard content to be published on it.
How To Tell If An SEO Agency Is Delivering Quality Content…
What do I mean by sub-standard? Well, you’ll often hear me say that blog posts of c.2500 words are (currently) generating the best results in terms of SEO. So… short content is shit content?
Short-form blogs are very effective for the right type of business (product-based businesses for example, or local businesses offering straight-forward services).
The length of a blog post only makes it bad for SEO if it’s under 300 words. Frankly, it’s not doing a thing if it’s that short.
But anything 500 words+ has SEO value as long as it’s well written and well-optimised.
That’s something that requires either a lot of time, or a lot of experience.
Writers get faster the more experience they have, so you’ll find it takes me far less time to write a 500-word post than someone who’s just started blogging. The level of optimisation in mine will be far superior, however, because I have the experience while the noob is only just getting to grips with the basics.
So quality isn’t about time, either.
Consider How Their SEO Content Is Priced…
Most content writing is priced by the word, rather than by the hour, precisely because the level of quality isn’t reflected in the time taken to write it. And yet you’ll notice that the rate for the first 1K words and every subsequent block of 1K words doesn’t vary.
The price is per 1K words, period.
This is because it’s not about the length any more than it’s about the writing time, it’s about the effectiveness of the optimisation and the user experience that comes from absorbing the content.
An agency charging £25 or less for a 500-word post is not going to deliver an effective strategy, and they know it.
If they were experienced enough to deliver great content and great results, that price would be £75, at the very least.
Likewise, if someone’s giving you a 2,500-word article for anything less than £450, you need to question how effective that article is going to be.
It’s not enough for content to read well, it also has to rank, and vice versa!
Get A Detailed Understanding Of What They Will Do For You…
Now, you might not care about the nitty-gritty of how SEO works, and I don’t blame you. It’s somewhat headache-inducing if I’m honest with you. But it is important to deal with an agency who is transparent in what’s actually included in the service they’re offering you.
This may mean having clear, set packages that give you various levels of SEO for set prices, or it may mean devising a completely bespoke strategy just for you.
Either way, you should understand what they’re going to be doing in terms of:
- Keyword research to identify the best search terms.
- Content schedule with each piece optimised for one of the search terms identified by research, with complex elements like topic clusters worked in where relevant.
- Content creation including images and other visual elements to accompany text all of which will need optimising.
- Content uploading and website management.
- Link-building through back-linking as well as article placement on high authority sites.
- Regular website updates to static pages as well as dynamic (i.e. blog, portfolio) content
- Auditing, both initially to assess your website’s current effectiveness, and at regular intervals to address any new problems.
- Analytics reports to give you a clear idea of how well you’re ranking, how effective SEO efforts are proving, and to identify ways to further improve in future.
They should ask you about your own goals, and suggest a solution that will best meet those goals. That may well be their most expensive package, but it could just as easily be their starter option – either way, they should explain how the solution they are suggesting matches the goals you’ve asked them to help you achieve.
If you’re looking for an outstanding search engine marketing agency operating in Northwich and the surrounding areas of Cheshire, and you’re ready to have a good chat about all things SEO, you can book a free consultation with me using the booking system below. You’ll get a face-to-face meeting, or phone call (whichever suits you best), followed by an action plan to get your business ranking. And while you’re here, feel free to have a snoop around our own site and make sure we’re ticking all the right boxes…
Our Head of Marketing, Hazel Butler, is an award-winning author, copywriter, and editor. Part ghostwriter, part blogger, part videographer, and part strategist, when she’s not endlessly penning content for our clients Hazel’s happily concocting the perfect marketing plans to propel their businesses forward.
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